Reviewby Theron Martin,
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
The army of Rakia, headed by the war god Ares, is marching on Orario once again, but with a Guild-requested Alliance formed by a few major Familia fending off the attack outside the walls, hardly anyone inside the walls is actually fazed by it. In fact, some enterprising gods and Familia even take advantage of the situation to fleece the enemy soldiers of their money! While that's going on, various other stories play out in Orario, including multiple matters of potential love between humans and gods, a prum marriage proposal, an unwanted family visit, a journey deeper into the middle levels for Hestia Familia, a return to Daedalus Street for Bell, and a kidnapping that leads to an unexpected discovery.
At 394 pages, the eighth novel of the main DanMachi storyline is the longest novel of the series released in English to date. Rather than using a continuous narrative, it operates within the loose framework of the attack by Rakia as it bounces around, showcasing a number of vignettes that focus on different characters. The degree to which they connect to the Rakia business varies a lot: a couple are integrally involved, while for others it's just background noise except perhaps for a few pages updating what's going on at the time outside the city walls. Still, there is a very loose story progression to it all, so this is more a collection of affiliated short stories than merely stand-alone side stories (as the ones in the fourth novel were).
Across the six main vignettes, each member of Hestia Familia except Haruhime gets feature treatment, with Bell naturally taking the spotlight most, once alongside Eina then with Syr and Hestia in turn. (He also figures into the vignettes featuring Welf and Lilly to a lesser extent, but he's only a minor supporting character in the one focusing on Mikoto.) Most of these provide significant insight into their featured characters, as well as revealing quirks of other characters they encounter. For instance, the longest vignette delves much more into Welf's reasons for separating from his family and his relationship with Hephaistos, in the process introducing the previously-unknown leader of Hephaistos Familia. We also get to learn more about Finn (the leader of Loki Familia) and his motivations in the piece concerning Lilly, Syr's backstory and what she gets up to when she's not at work, and some of the kinds of problems that Guild employees like Eina can face. Mikoto's background was extensively detailed in the last novel, but even she reveals a bit more about herself here. The only featured characters who don't get any new development are Bell and Hestia, who pretty much behave as normal.
The recurring theme through most of the passages is love, with the potential for love between a mortal and a god or goddess figuring into four of the tales. This kind of thing is a staple element of Greek mythology in particular, so it comes up in more cases than just Hestia, Freya, and Apollo crushing hard on Bell. That's hardly unexpected, but this novel implies that this is a fairly common occurrence in Orario in general. Bell even has a philosophical discussion with Hermes and Miach about it at one point, which goes into the different things that love can mean for gods when directed at mortals. The crushes that certain well-known characters have on certain gods are also explored, as is the amusing fashion in which gods like Takemikazuchi and Miach cluelessly lead along hordes of women with their attentions; one character even comments that they shouldn't be allowed to walk around unescorted. In perhaps the best piece, Bell and Hestia get to meet an old man who once loved a goddess himself, and the experience left a lifelong impression on him.
There is at least some plot progression too. Mikoto acquires something that's bound to have an impact on future volumes, and the resolution of Welf's vignette should also have consequences well beyond the scope of this volume. The Hestia battle party successfully takes Haruhime along with them and starts training her as a supporter, while Lilly gets some issues that were still bothering her resolved. On more minor notes, we find out where a few former Apollo Familia members finally landed and further suggestions about an important link between Syr and Freya. This is the aspect where the novel most disappoints, however, as there were a couple of solid opportunities to move things in dramatic new directions, but writer Fujino Ōmori balked at disrupting the status quo of the quasi-harem gathered around Bell.
On the technical side, the release is par for the course. Omori still has the irritating habit of providing dialogue and then describing why it is being said and by who afterwards, dragging down capable characterizations and story content in the process. However, he handles the plot structure quite well, and the story comes together more smoothly in the end than might be expected. Production standards from Yen Press's imprint Yen On are par for the course with previous novels.
In the included Afterword, Omori mentions that this novel marks the end of the story's second arc, and the next one will begin the third. A teaser for that arc is firmly planted in the final couple of pages, a development with the potential to upset everything that adventurers know about the Dungeon so far. While I wouldn't go as far as saying that Omori is on a roll here, he does wrap up a pretty good novel with an enticing hook for the next one.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Greatly expands some backstories and characterizations, some neat vignettes
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